A Health Update {Hashimoto’s, pregnancy, fertility, and food}

19wkbelly

It’s been quite some time since I’ve talked about my health here, and I know some of you might be curious how things are going with treating my autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) naturally, and how it has affected my pregnancy.

Quick background: I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in summer 2013, after years of not being able to find any answer to why I felt completely awful so much of the time. This diagnosis lead to massive changes in my already “healthy” diet. Over the previous years I’d been vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, avoided processed and refined foods, done detoxes, and yet still had very little energy and got debilitating headaches more days out of each month than not.

Once I learned the root cause of all of these problems, I was quite determined to learn to manage it naturally and very much wanted to avoid the need for any medication. I began researching a ton and found that much of what I’d always known to be true in the realm of nutrition, actually wasn’t (at least not for every person). In the midst of all of this I was also trying to conceive our third baby, and after 1.5 years of trying was diagnosed with PCOS. I learned that hormone balance depends on an abundance of healthy fats, and that I needed more quality proteins to help keep my blood sugar stable. I was told to avoid gluten, as it increases inflammation for people with autoimmune disease, and as I dug deeper I found that same to be true of legumes, sugar, dairy, and grains in general. All signs pointed to a grain-free, primal (paleo) diet, and I decided to give it a try.

I haven’t eaten any gluten at all since January 2014, and permanently quit dairy and corn a while after that upon seeing so clearly how much they affected how I feel. I rarely eat sugar (refined white sugar, almost never) or legumes, and I have gone many stretches being completely grain-free. This has been such a huge change, and definitely not always easy. I miss lentils and bread, but when I think about how I used to feel when eating them frequently, it really doesn’t seem so bad.

ultrasound

So back to pregnancy. After over a year and a half of trying to conceive, even with all these dietary changes my progesterone was still low, so I was put on a natural compounded progesterone. We found out in late June of last year that I was pregnant, just weeks after starting the hormone treatment. At 8 weeks, it ended abruptly in a miscarriage. I don’t know, and will never know, if Hashimoto’s was to blame at all, but after it happened I became a lot more careful with my diet, avoiding inflammatory foods and increasing healthy fats and veggies. In January, after more months of overusing pregnancy test strips and wondering if it would ever happen, once again I was faced with two little pink lines. This time felt so different though. The anxiety that had surfaced after my miscarriage attacked with a vengeance, and I fought it every day with prayer, faith, and essential oils. When I passed the 8-week mark where I’d been last time, and especially when I reached the 12-week mark where risk is considered much lower, I began to relax. Twelve weeks happened to come almost exactly when I’d been due with the one we lost, which was bittersweet but also healing for me. With the second trimester came the end of my constant nausea, and I entered the phase of truly enjoying this pregnancy.

My morning (read: all-day) sickness in the first 12 weeks made it basically impossible to stay as strict with my diet as I had been. I still avoided gluten, sugar, dairy, and most legumes, but added some grains back to save my sanity. Protein-rich foods often made me feel ill by simply thinking of them. Even now, I’m eating rice or a piece of millet bread here and there, and simply trying to listen to my body and discern what it needs on any given day. Sometimes that’s a big green smoothie with kale, pineapple, mango, coconut milk, banana, avocado and coconut oil. Sometimes it’s sweet potatoes, or raw coconut oil chocolate, or some eggs or grass-fed beef. Most of my cravings have been along those lines, though sometimes it’s for things like donuts or ice cream and I’ve had to find creative healthy ways to satisfy that!

breakfast

Pregnancy can affect thyroid problems pretty drastically at times, and for the first time I have needed a low dose of thyroid medication. I don’t love being on it, and am hoping to be able to stop after baby comes, even if it means getting even more strict with food for a while. I truly believe that the body can heal itself, but I don’t want to do any experimenting with thyroid levels while I’m pregnant.

Despite that, this has overall been the best I have ever felt while pregnant. I have more energy than I remember having with the boys, much fewer headaches, and most significantly much fewer digestive problems. My first two pregnancies involved almost constant tummy issues—painful indigestion practically ever time I ate—and now it’s pretty rare and usually directly linked to slipping up and eating something I shouldn’t (like some corn chips, hummus, or peanuts).

Supplements are also pretty important when growing a human, and must go far beyond a simple prenatal vitamin.
I take a prenatal multi recommended by my nurse practitioner (who treats my Hashimoto’s). It contains methylfolate instead of the standard folic acid, which is absorbed much more readily by my body.
My other dailies are: fermented cod liver oil (one of the very best sources of essential fatty acids and vitamins A & D), a quality probiotic, curcumin (turmeric capsules, for inflammation), a special thyroid supplement from my nurse practitioner, and a magnesium/calcium drink.
I also use various essential oil daily according to what I need. One of my favorites is the Gentle Baby blend, which is specifically for pregnancy and babies. The book Gentle Babies has been a great resource for figuring out which Young Living oils can be used while pregnant.

gentlebaby

I think that just about covers it (for now anyway). What a wild ride this has been! I’m so thankful for all the knowledge I’ve gained and help I’ve received that has helped this pregnancy along so far and helped me grow the healthiest baby possible, and feel as well as possible so I can enjoy every moment of this. Now at 24 weeks, I am deeply aware of the magic of being her home for these months, her nourishment and protection. Every kick and squirm I feel is so very precious.

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Battling anxiety with hope and oils

dahlia 2

I haven’t talked about it here yet, but if you follow me on instagram or are friends with me in person, you know that in June of this year—after over a year and a half of trying—I was pregnant. And then by the first week of July, I wasn’t. Losing a baby was something that I never expected. Always knew it to be a possibility, yes, but it’s something that can’t feel close and real until it actually happens to you. I always trusted my body completely in pregnancy and birth, and had very little fear surrounding that stage of life. So when I was hit so suddenly with the loss of our tiny baby at 8 weeks, it was a shock I could never have been prepared for. The emotional and physical pain was greater than I ever would have thought. Over the weeks that followed, the most intense pain of it dulled gradually. I stopped crying during diaper commercials (well, for the most part at least). But in place of that pain, anxiety had entered. I was on edge all the time. The boys would climb onto me and I felt like I couldn’t breathe; any type of crowd made me want to run far and fast; I worried over every little thing and couldn’t sleep at night—everything in life felt magnified and too heavy. It took me a while to realize that it had been spurred by my miscarriage. Through a conversation in a friend’s kitchen, it dawned on me how freaked out I was by the thought of getting pregnant again, while simultaneously wanting it more than anything. And so I began the work of trusting God and accepting that it’s out of my hands and in much more capable ones.

Around that time we received our starter kit of essential oils from Young Living. After hearing them recommended time after time for anxiety and depression, I decided to start using Valor and Joy daily- I dilute them 1:1 with a carrier oil in a little roller bottle, and roll just a little on my wrists, heart, and behind my ears once or twice a day. The difference I’ve felt has been amazing. The best way to explain it is that I feel balanced, and more grounded. I can breathe again, and life is still life, but I don’t constantly feel like it’s more than I can bear.

valorjoy 2

So I’m clinging to hope, trusting in things I can’t see, and so thankful to have these wonderful, completely natural tools to help me heal. I will never stop being sad when I think about the baby we lost, but I know that we are okay, and that we’ll have another baby when we’re meant to. For now, I am feeling better, and that feels freakin awesome.

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avocado mango salad

avocado_mango_salad

 

 

This salad. I’m a little obsessed. I could eat it every day, at any time of the day. And it’s super seasonal right now (here at least). Yum!

How to make it:

1 avocado, cut into cubes
1 small-medium mango (I love those small yellow “honey” mangoes!), cut into cubes
juice of 1/2 lime
handful of chopped fresh cilantro
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt, kosher, whatever)
optional: 1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained

Combine all of the above in a bowl. Mix and enjoy!

 

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hello, I’m a canary.

detoxwater

I can’t believe my last post on this blog was nearly a year ago. Suddenly I’ve had an urge to write publicly again lately, about things other than art and photography (which of course I do over here). I think Instagram is largely to blame for my absence here. It’s so easy to snap a photo and type out a little blurb about what’s happening in my life, and press share. Instant gratification. But I’ve got more on my mind these days and for some reason I have this innate pull to share it with whomever wants to listen. So here I am, once again. Hello :)

Ten months since my last post also means ten months since finding out I have Hashimoto’s. It’s been quite the journey, to say the least. After months of the strictest eating plan I’ve ever followed, my headaches were more frequent than ever and I felt awful. I spent the last few months of last year eating mostly healthy but with no restrictions. I was traveling, working quite a lot, doing the holidays thing, and I knew something had to change again at some point but I just wasn’t ready. In January I began reading more about Hashi’s and knew that gluten really didn’t have a place in my life anymore, and that it would have to be permanent. Apparently gluten and my thyroid look too similar to my crazy immune system, so when I eat gluten it creates antibodies to attack it, which then get confused and attack my thyroid too. So I made peace with saying goodbye to wheat, and honestly it hasn’t been as hard as one would think.

While this seemed to help some, I was still not feeling great. I saw an endocrinologist for the first time, and then received a recommendation from a friend for a nurse practitioner she sees for Hashi’s, who specializes in functional medicine. I made an appointment right away, and I’m so thankful. She confirmed my gluten-free decision, and prescribed a 10-day detox program, a daily circumin supplement (to reduce inflammation in my body), a predominantly alkaline diet, and then another blood test in a few months to see if my antibody levels decrease. So that’s where I am now. I loved the detox program. It wasn’t easy, but I felt so clear and just better. It’s been over a week since it ended, and so far I still haven’t eaten dairy or sugar because I just feel so much better without them. I’ve had coffee only once since, which is huge for me. I really enjoy coffee. But I’m trying to make it a once-in-a-while treat rather than a daily thing I depend on.

So right now, my diet is predominantly plant-based. I eat more vegetables and legumes than I ever have before. Fruit, some gluten-free grains, some fish and eggs, and sometimes poultry. I’m trying to purchase organic/wild caught/cage free whenever I can, and my current challenge is doing this while sticking with a reasonable food budget. (I’ll write a whole post on that endeavor soon.)

I do still get headaches, but they’re not as bad or as frequent since I did the detox. And there’s an obvious link between them and either lack of water or increase in stress. I read somewhere that people who have autoimmune diseases are like the canaries in the coal mine for everyone else. Things that everyone else should do, we just pay a much bigger price for ignoring them. We’re sensitive, so we have to take extra care with how we eat, what toxins we’re exposed to, our stress levels, sleep quality, and basically every area of self care. My body forces me to slow down and care for myself, and if I don’t I inevitably crash- unable to care for those who need me or keep up with my work and other responsibilities. Lots of people, when they hear how I eat now, say they could never do this, that they love bread and cheese and sweets coffee way too much. Trust me, I love them too. But the alternative for me is feeling exhausted constantly, in pain almost all the time, and consequently short on the patience and energy required to raise tiny humans, run a business, and live my life. Now, for the first time in years, I am myself more often then I’m not. I’m enjoying playing with my kids, and I have the energy to do the things I love. It’s amazing. Giving up those foods and changing my lifestyle doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore—it feels like an incredible gift.

beach

 

I’ll be back soon. (for real this time!)

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Learning how to eat, again.

© 2013 Hannah Mayo Photography
© 2013 Hannah Mayo Photography

I know I said I was back, and then I left you hanging ;)

I’ve been a bit preoccupied with photographing awesome peeps in love and raising babies, and also for a while it felt like I’d hit a dead end on the path to ridding myself of headaches.

Then I heard about food sensitivity testing, which led me to a local natural health practice that offers such a test. After meeting with a practitioner there, I had a lot of blood drawn (like, I nearly passed out), and today I met with her for the results. Which led me back here, to this blog, because I’m just starting to process everything and it’s simply too complicated for an Instagram or Facebook post. I know it will be of no interest whatsoever to many out there, but writing always helps me process things.

The tests that were done were basically a full workup and hormone panel- vitamins, thyroid, and on and on- and a food sensitivity test called LEAP-MRT.

Much of my regular health labs came back good, but it’s been determined that I have Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland as if it were a foreign entity, eventually resulting in severe hypothyroidism. It can progress over the course of years and even decades, and often in the beginning it isn’t detected because thyroid levels themselves will remain in normal range. The true test for the presence of the condition is a thyroid antibody test, which isn’t included in routine bloodwork. In all my years of seeing doctor after doctor for my headaches, most of them ordered blood tests, but this practitioner is the first who’s ever checked my thyroid antibodies. Even before true hypothyroidism occurs, symptoms can begin to show up and are often written off as unrelated and without apparent cause. It tends to be genetic, and my mom had it before finally having her thyroid removed last year. Mine is in very early stages still and does not require any thyroid replacement medicine. My nurse practitioner is optimistic that following the diet they’ve outlined for me will do a lot to keep my levels in check.

Hashimoto’s and food sensitivities often go hand-in-hand, so it turns out that the MRT results could help with it and my headaches (it’s likely the two are closely connected anyway). The foods I’m reactive to are broken into high and moderate reaction levels. For the next three months, I need to avoid all the food from both categories, and then I can challenge by moderately reactive foods one at a time. I wont bore you with the entire list, but suffice to say that for the next three months I have to avoid dairy, gluten, soy, rice, quinoa, oranges, onions, shrimp, walnuts, and several other foods.

The nutritionist I met with suggested I learn about the Paleo diet and the recipes that go along with it, and loosely follow that since there are so many grains on my “no” list. So here I go into entirely new food territory, re-learning how to eat (and shop, and cook). I’ve been pretty overwhelmed thinking about it today- knowing that I have to find alternatives for so many things I’m used to eating, and wondering how I’m going to organize our meals when I have to eat so much differently from my family. But I know I’ll find a groove with it, and if it leads to feeling well and being pain-free it will certainly be worth the effort.

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The Juice of the Week | 01

Hello there! Life has been so full lately. Isaac turned one (whaat?! I know!), and we threw a party for him and Seth, whose birthday was a few weeks ago. I’m preparing to shoot my first wedding of the year- actually my first since Isaac was born, this coming Saturday. I’m so excited to get back to weddings, and this one is going to be amazing!

Something interesting happened concerning my headaches. A friend of mine told me about her acupunnturist, and strongly encouraged me to give him a try. I’ve had acupuncture before, with mixed results, and I ended up deciding that it wasn’t working for me. She explained that different acupuncturists can work differently though (makes sense), and this guy had worked wonders for her and her husband. So I made an appointment, and went last week. Dr. M seemed to know exactly what my problem is, and was totally confident that I would feel completely better with as little as one treatment and an herbal supplement he prescribed. He also told me to avoid caffeine, but was confident that gluten sensitivty isn’t an issue for me. I left feeling so hopeful and encouraged by his confidence. It’s been one week, and I’ve still had headaches every day, but he did say it could take a little while and that I may need more treatments. So I’m still hopeful (though I’ll admit I was hoping for an immediate change), and I’ll be booking another appointment soon. I’ll keep you updated as I continue with it.

Even though I’d only been off gluten for a bit over a month, I decided to try eating it again after what Dr. M said. The verdict is still out. I’m not sure if it is a cooincidence or not, but a day after I intruduced it back into my diet, I had the most awful, painful bloating (tmi? I’m sorry). My digestive system is so sensitive, and it’s always been pretty hard me to figure out what ticks it off. So I may remove gluten again after all.

Anyway, since juicing is a huge part of my life now- I juice at least once, and sometimes twice, a day- I thought I’d start sharing some of my favorite concoctions here. We just upgraded our juicer, and I couldn’t be more excited about my Omega 8006. Seriously, I’m in love! It is a masticating juicer, where the one I had before was a centrifugal. (You can read about the different types here if you’re interested.)

So without further ado, here’s the juice of the week!

greensprouty

This is what I’m drinking at this very moment as I type, and it’s delicious! I keep the stems from all our broccoli for juice, because there are nutrients there too, and I try to use every part of the produce we purchase.

I bought my sunflower sprouts at Whole Foods yesterday, but I would really love to try growing them myself. I may need to wait until we move due to space constraints. Have any of you grown your own sprouts? Any tips? I think sunflower sprouts need a bed of dirt, but maybe I’ll try a different kind that I can do in a jar for now…

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Pregnancy Must-Haves

{from a maternity session I shot early this year}

I am now six months into my second pregnancy. My first was pretty easy- I had very little nausea, minimal aches or pains until the very end, and in general felt pretty good most of the time. This pregnancy has been pretty much the opposite of that. I was sick every day for the first 15 weeks, and have had headaches at least a few days each week. Midway through I began to experience a lot of back pain, and in general my body has gone through much of the typical list of pregnancy discomforts.

I write all that not to whine and complain- it could totally be so much worse, and will be worth it a million times over. I’m sharing because in the midst of all that, I’ve found some things that have helped make me so much more comfortable and able to enjoy being pregnant, and I want to share those with other mamas.

Here are some of my pregnancy essentials:

~Mommy’s Bliss Morning Sickness Comfort - my midwife gave me several sample pack of these capsules, and they seemed to really help the nausea.

~Preggie Pop Drops - helped calm my stomach a bit too. i really liked the lavender ones.

~Miso soup - also for morning sickness. this helped so much! i made it with swiss chard or kale in place of or in addition to the kombu.

~Teechino - to help cut down my caffeine intake without withdrawl symptoms, I mixed this with my coffee grounds starting with a 1:3 ratio and working the actual coffee down to about 1/2 a small mug’s worth each day.

~Hair ties - to loop through button hole and around button of non-maternity jeans. this allowed me to wear them about twice as long as i would have.

~Bella Band - Another great item for wearing regular jeans longer. now i use it to hold up some of my maternity jeans that don’t like to stay up well.

~Belly butter - I like something with shea or cocoa butter. The key is keeping your belly super moisturized. I did this every day in my first pregnancy, and since I didn’t get any stretch marks then, I’m doing it again. Some people say if you’re going to get them, no amount of lotion will change that, but even so, keeping your skin moisturized will help prevent itching as your skin stretches.

~A journal - for me, navigating the emotional roller coaster of these nine months (and way beyond) requires frequent writing. I also keep a journal for each of my boys, where I write letters to them- I started both early in pregnancy.

~Water bottle - I love my stainless steel Kleen Kanteen to avoid the chemicals in plastics. I try to remember to have it with me whenever I’m not at home. Drinking more water than feels completely normal is really really important to feeling well and being well during pregnancy.

~Chiropractic care - I can’t say enough good things about my chiropractor. Without her, I might be bedridden right now. Growing a human really moves things around, and getting adjusted regularly helps keep the spine, hips, and pelvis aligned. It’s important after giving birth, too. I switched about a month ago to a chiropractor who has specific expertise in maternity care. I also trust her with my babies, as I really believe it’s never to early to start taking care of your spine.

~Supportive, comfy walking shoes - being active in pregnancy is so important, and comfortable shoes are a must. My old ones were not so great, so early in my pregnancy I bought some Asics. Love them.

~Yoga mat and prenatal DVD/class/book - I like this DVD, as going to class is tough on our budget (not to mention difficult to get into my schedule). EVen doing a few basic poses and some breathing for a few minutes out of the day has such a positive effect on my energy, comfort, and sense of calm. It helps to much to stay limber and flexible, and strengthen muscles that you’ll use in labor.

~Digestive enzymes - for any trouble with digestion. The difference after I started taking this daily was incredible. I get Whole Food’s store brand “Wholezyme”, which is a blend of different types of enzyme.

~Yoga pants, jersey skirts, comfy bras (I went ahead and bought a couple nursing bras since the ones left from the first time are totally shot), maternity jeans… basically, things with lots of stretch. A lot of what I wear on a daily basis isn’t even “maternity”. Comfort is paramount though, and it’s possible to have it and still look cute.

~Pregnancy tea - one that includes red raspberry leaf. Sitting down with a cup of herbal tea is a great way to relax, and getting a blend for pregnancy can have some great health benefits. I like the ones made my Yogi and Traditional Medicinals, and the trimester-specific loose leaf ones from Worts and Cunning Apothecary on Etsy.

~Pillows. Lots of pillows. My current setup is one in front of me, tucked under my belly a little, and one under my top knee. Otherwise I seriously can’t fall asleep.

~Dried fruit - I have craved sweets a lot, and while dried fruit is still sugary and not as good for you as fresh, I figure it is better than candy, and having a little bit of it helps the craving a lot.

~Snacks - having healthy ones around all the time keeps blood sugar steady.

Maybe I’ll have some more to add near the end, as the third trimester always beings new challenges. But for now, that’s what I’ve got.

What are your pregnancy must-haves?

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Taking it Easy

Can I tell you something?

I have been avoiding this blog a little bit this week. I’ve been ashamed, because since I wrote that post about making big health changes, I’ve only been running twice, and have not stuck to all of the guidelines of that diet I talked about. After my last attempt at running, I felt sore and drained for days. We’re having sleep troubles with Seth, so I have been tired, and when I’m tired I get emotional. I’ve still been getting headaches almost daily.

Today I saw a doctor- an internist who approaches things more holistically than is typical, and uses a combination of natural remedies and “traditional” medicine. We talked about my history, my stress level, etc. etc. She encouraged regular yoga and meditation, more hydration, and light, non-jarring exercise, as well as a few blood tests.

As I was driving home after my appointment, I thought about how silly it is that I’ve been feeling ashamed about not being so steadfast and unwavering as I’d wanted to be. I’d been feeling like since I broadcasted it here on the internet and people had read it, that I had to stick to it. I tend to be extreme and all-or-nothing with things like this- I suppose its part of my personality. Rather than just easing in and making better choices with what I eat, maybe giving up a few things, I decide to go vegan and give up all processed foods and sugar all at once. Instead of adding more deliberate exercise into my life, I decide to take up running- something I know has always been difficult and joyless for me. Then, I beat myself up for not having more discipline with these things.

Here is the truth- I am not in a place where I need to- or should- be extreme and hard as nails right now. I need to let myself off the hook a little, to take it easy and be gentle and kind to myself.

So I’m approaching it in steps, and celebrating each one. I’m working on eliminating processed foods, I’m trying to avoid dairy because it seems to make me sick. I am going to get out and do active things I actually enjoy, and I am going to try to make yoga and meditation a part of my daily life again. Most of all, I am going to practice some self-kindness.

___________________

In the spirit of taking it easy, a few images from time by the water, from the most recent set of scans I got back from Richard Photo Lab.

Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, Kodak Portra 160NC and 400NC film

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Drink to your Health

Today on my photography blog, I posted this photo for the 52 weeks project I’m part of. Our theme this week was beginnings, and I wrote a little about the changes I’ve been making to the way I eat, and the beginnings of my journey into running.

I mentioned the Crazy Sexy Diet in my last post. When I first started reading it, I knew that it was going to spur change in my life. I was almost scared to start it, but I am so glad I did.

I was a vegetarian for years before I got married, and afterward kind of off and on. I started eating meat and dairy again because it was easier- easier to get protein that way, easier not to cook separate things for myself and my husband, easier to eat out or at other peoples’ homes. Still, I have known all along that it is not the ideal way of eating, and that my body just doesn’t like those things. Animal products and processed foods clog up the system and cause all kinds of problems, and this was always in the back of my mind while I was consuming them and then suffering from stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, heartburn, and skin problems. Well, Kris Carr’s book has brought it to the forefront of my mind again, and I am choosing to treat my body better. I may like the flavors of the food I’ve been eating, but it just isn’t worth feeling awful now and jeopardizing my long-term health. And I know from experience that after a while, those toxins leave your body and you don’t really crave the same foods you once did.

Raw foods, juices, and smoothies are a big part of the Crazy Sexy Diet.
I love smoothies and juicing- they are one of my favorite ways to “eat” my veggies. Kris Carr’s “Make Juice Not War” Green Juice is awesome. You can use romaine lettuce in place of the sprouts, or play around with different greens like spinach and parsley.

Green smoothies are also amazing. I’m not sure I have ever made two exactly the same, but this is one of my basic recipes:

Creamy Greenie Smoothie

1/2 avocado (or 1/4 of one of those really large, lighter-colored ones)
1 banana
handful of spinach
about a cup of coconut water
a drizzle of agave nectar

Then you can go nuts and be creative. Use only half a banana and then add some berries, kiwi, or pineapple. Use cucumber instead of (or in addition to) the avocado. Throw in some broccoli or alfalfa sprouts if you have them. You get the idea. Enjoy :)

{p.s.- Even my 2 year old will drink this. I’m not kidding.}

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Food.

delicious

{This is something I have never really shared publicly, but for some reason I felt led to today. It feels so strange to be putting it “out there”, but I hoping that my transparency on this subject will be somehow encouraging or helpful to someone out there.}

As I sit here eating my quinoa and green beans for lunch, I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with food. It’s an odd thing, the emotional connections involved in what we eat. My attitudes about food have changed drastically throughout my life.

As a teenager- studying ballet and coping with the constant pressure within that craft to be lithe and thin- I had quite an unhealthy view of food. I even feared it. I dabbled in liquid fasts and veganism (not saying being vegan is bad, at all, just at the point I was doing it for all the wrong reasons). I restricted my calories, counting them obsessively, while dancing and exercising for hours each day. I lacked energy to the point where I frequently felt light-headed.

My dancing came to a halt when I began to get intense migraines on an almost daily basis. Maybe it was body’s way of forcing me to begin healing. I no longer felt quite as much pressure to stay skinny, but my perspective on food and my body had been damaged. I fluctuated between overdoing it with very unhealthy foods, and not eating enough. I did not feel whole and healthy, and frequently berated myself for lack of discipline.

My mind and body have healed so much since that time in my life. I saw a counselor for a while I was college, and I finally reached a point where I felt comfortable in my skin. I celebrated by getting the word “victory” tattooed on my ankle in Hebrew- the language of some of my oldest ancestors, and of the book that helped me to get through it.

I got this tattoo knowing well that I still had a long way to go, but I wanted a permanent reminder of this victory over self-loathing and depression.

Now, my relationship with food has shifted from being about weight, to being about health. I still have weeks where I go crazy with the refined-sugar domino effect (the more you eat, the more you crave), and I know it makes me feel sick but it is hard to stop. Dairy is the same way for me- I like it, but if I eat too much of it I feel awful. Yet too often I eat a lot of these things anyway in the name of “indulgence”- I always pay for it later though in the form of stomach pain, headaches and fatigue.

On the flip side, I have learned that whole, living foods (like to today’s lunch I mentioned) give me energy and make me feel fantastic, and yet I am not always motivated to prepare them for myself. There is a domino effect here too though, because if I get in the habit of eating a lot of veggies, fruits, and whole grains for a while, I do actually crave them.

I am hoping to get to a truly balanced place, in which moderation rules and nothing feels restricted or deprived. I want to make food decisions on a daily basis that really nourish my body and make me feel good, because that is a form of self-care as well. I want to want to make these decisions. And so the journey continues…

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